Mother of Mercy High Gathers Teens from Four Faiths for Peace Garden
by Bob Bonnici
This year, the first Sunday afternoon in May marked the first time that teenagers representing four major religions in Cincinnati gathered together to work as one, building a butterfly garden as an example of interfaith cooperation for our common home, the earth. The youth groups from the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, Mayerson JCC, Trinity Lutheran Church of Mt. Healthy, and students from Mother of Mercy High School joined together at the Imago Nature Center for an afternoon of discussion, service, and fun.
Although Mother of Mercy High School is entering its final year as one of our city’s educational institutions, it has strived over the years to help our city grow in interfaith relations, especially among our youth. For several years, Mother of Mercy High has brought students on field trips to the mosque at the Islamic Center, to Seder meals at Mayerson, and to common prayer services at Trinity Lutheran. As the students began building friendships, Mother of Mercy High School began coordinating service days at Imago to deepen their relationships with a common goal for peace: joining first with Muslim youth from the Islamic Center, then the following year including Jewish youth from Mayerson JCC, and this year the Lutheran youth from Trinity made the May 7th event our largest gathering of faith-filled teens ever!
In planning for the interfaith service garden event, students from each faith group collaborated on a commemorative t-shirt for everyone with the word “peace” displayed in Arabic, Hebrew, and English centered around a burgeoning leafing tree.
Imago specializes in educating youth about nature so they divided the students into mixed working groups to help everyone get to know one another. The students worked on the peace garden all afternoon and several joined the Mercy girls in planting a tree for one of their beloved classmates who recently passed away. After the shovels and wheelbarrows were put away, everyone gathered for some of Scarlato’s delicious cheese pizza for dinner and table discussion. This year’s theme was how each religion tries to live out the value of “compassion” in our world in light of our school’s name of Mercy. Dalal, a Mercy freshman, said that she enjoyed these interfaith service experiences “because people there happened to be confused why not only a Muslim was at Mercy, but also why I was representing Mercy that day.” She goes on to explain that “it is because of the wonderful community Mercy has and about the love that is exerted from everyone, not only the student body, but the staff as well.”
This gathering of youth from all four faiths was made possible by a generous grant from the Brueggeman Center and it is our hope that we can continue to gather for service once again in the fall of Mother of Mercy High’s final year.
Robert J. Bonnici
Teacher, Mother of Mercy High School